As the band kicked in and Carolyn Baeumler's started singing in Grace Slick's strong voice, I knew that AliceGraceAnon had me hooked. Of course, walking through the 1960s happening-style environment that New Georges has created in the Irondale Center had already put me in the mood for this experience. Kara Lee Corthron's play is an ambitious work with a lot of heart which transforms the play into an experience beyond the text itself.
The title of AliceGraceAnon comes from a combination of the three female protagonists who coexist in the play. Alice (Teresa Avia Lim) comes to us from Charles Dodgson, who you might know as Lewis Carroll. Grace is, as I have already mentioned, none other than Grace Slick, the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane. And Anonymous (Christina Pumariega) is the fictional protagonist of Go Ask Alice, a cautionary tale of drugs "published as a the diary of a real girl, but revealed to be a work of fiction by do-gooder Beatrice Sparks."
These characters inhabit the chameleon-like set designed by Nick Francone, and are supported by the installations by Rachel Schapira. The space itself is a character in this play, and the audience takes part in the experience along with the main characters and members of "the spectacle brigade" who function as everything from run-crew to interlude performers. The performers are all well suited to this crazy world, and the performances themselves were good.
Personally, I found the atmosphere to be warm and energetic. But I use the word "personally" because this piece is so bold that it is certainly not for everyone. The three narratives overlap and wind around in a way that seems like controlled chaos. The description of how this play came into being can explain the reason for this better than I can.
Producing Artistic Director of New Georges Susan Bernfield describes in her program note that this play is the result of "an unusual commission: to make plays of 'scope and adventure,' BIG plays, crazy imaginative plays, to challenge us as producers." Bernfield also informs us that "unproducability" was another aspect of this initiative, which is called The Germ Project.
I cannot say enough good things about how well AliceGraceAnon accomplishes these goals. The raw creative energy of the piece, which will be anathema to some theatregoers who crave more traditional fare, is like a drug for me. I was high off of this production, and its fearless choices won me over from the first moment I entered the Irondale Center. I do think that the play lost a small bit of momentum towards the end as it worked to tie up all of the threads, but I was perfectly content to exist in this utopic alternate dimension with these characters and performers for longer.
If you are looking for a piece that personifies true creativity and innovative spirit, a play that challenges your views about the aesthetic of downtown theatre, or even if you like the 1960s and want to go listen to some fantastic live music, go see AliceGraceAnon. As Grace Slick says, "remember what the dormouse said. Feed your head. Feed your head."